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Chestnut Hill Manor:A History of Horrors

"All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses."
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 - 1882

Some of the most haunted places in the world sit quietly in our own neighborhood, waiting, begging to be explored, debunked, whispered about. This can certainly be said about Chestnut Hill Manor in the town of Douglasville, GA.

The 150 year old manor house sits atop Chestnut Hill, the former site of a historical native American landmark, a Chestnut tree with no bark. Settlers named the area now known as Douglasville, “Skint Chestnut” after the remarkable tree. Building the manor on such hallowed grounds may have been ill fated, but in it’s former glory the house is said to have been a magnificent example of Gothic style architecture with its elaborate exterior sculptures, oval arches,  and impressive looming tower.

Chestnut Hill manor was built for Walton Charles, a rice plantation owner,  and completed in 1868 but there are no existing records of the architect, the blueprints,  or anyone who worked on the building. Mr Charles died exactly one year after the completion of the manor and as far as I can work out, he was the first person to die inside the house. Walton Charles’ death was ruled to be of natural causes. As his will was found to be mysteriously missing following his death, the manor was put up for auction and sold.

Since 1869 many families have occupied the home but never for more than 3 years, except for the Stewart family. Over the years the residents of Chestnut Hill have either disappeared, including a handful of children who are said to have vanished into the woods surrounding the property, committed suicide, killed one or several family members, been gravely injured in unusual accidents, reported hearing voices and seeing strangers in the house, or fallen ill very suddenly and have passed away shortly after.  Due to this it seems a 3 year curse formed whereby no family lasted in the house longer than 3 years. They either died in the home, or made their escape following a series of shocking and unfortunate events. Except for the Stewarts that is.

Henry Stewart, owner of ESC Shipping Company,  purchased Chestnut Hill in the spring of 1982, blissfully unaware of its troubled past, and moved in with his wife and two children. The first two years were seemingly uneventful for the family who enjoyed the manor’s spacious rooms and maze of hallways littered with sculptures, ornate wall patterns, and lavish decor.

In the third year of the Stewart’s residency at the manor, Henry Stewart was stricken with a recurring illness which presented in the form of bouts of constant nausea, extreme sensitivity to heat and cold, migraines, and insomnia. As a result Henry began running his shipping company from home full time and rarely stepped outside the house. His wife, Alicia, had been a full time mother from the time the family moved in to the house as she done for many years prior. Around the same time that Henry became unwell, Alicia stopped tutoring her children, suddenly abandoned playing her piano, stopped tending to her vegetable and flower gardens, and spoke less and less, eventually not saying a word to anyone at all.  Sometime in September of 1986, The Stewarts moved their children’s beds into the attic where they banished Samael and Emily Stewart for extended periods of time.  During the periods when the children were kept on the uppermost floor of the home, staff were only permitted to unlock the door to this floor three times a day to provide Samael and Emily with meals.

In later years, the staff who were employed at the residence spoke of Mr Stewart’s regular and sudden outbursts of anger, Mrs Stewart whispering to herself and crying uncontrollably for hours at a time, sixteen year old Samael Stewart collecting dead animals, torturing his sister, and praying to what they referred to as “dark forces”, and twelve year old Emily Stewart gradually becoming more withdrawn, screaming in the night, and emerging from the attic with fresh scars and bruises whenever the two children were given a respite from their effective imprisonment.

Exactly what happened to the Stewart family inside Chestnut Hill Manor is not clear but in 1987 Emily Stewart was reported missing and an extensive search of the house, grounds, and surrounding woods yielded no evidence of her whereabouts.  The police were called to the manor once again a year later after the house staff arrived for their daily shift and made the grisly discovery of the bodies of Henry and Alicia Stewart. Mrs Stewart was found in the garden with her head smashed through a greenhouse window, her neck cut open on the broken glass. Mr Stewart was found in the attic inside a large wardrobe, the inner walls of which were scrawled with an array of unusual symbols, his eyes were missing and his entire body had been tightly bound in barbed and razor wire. Mr Stewart’s death was ruled to have been caused by extensive bleeding from multiple severed arteries.

The fate of Samael Stewart remains unknown. No trace of Samael was found anywhere in the house, on the grounds, or in the surrounding area. Authorities searched for Samael for months following the incident and extensively investigated the Stewart’s suspicious deaths until resources were exhausted and the case became cold.

Since the manor was built it seems to have taken on a life of its own, an evil life. Records indicate that at least fifty people have died in the house or on its grounds, all of them in unusual, suspicious, or inexplicable circumstances, a cluster of others have simply disappeared from the property, and dozens of former residents have suffered life altering injuries and developed severe psychological disorders,  a fact which over the years realtors have buried time and time again in order to sell the home.

Henry Stewart’s sister, his only living relative at the time of his death aside from his son who remains missing, inherited Chestnut Hill and, apparently aware of the darkness the property holds and spreads, vowed to keep it off the market to prevent any further tragedy. So far her children who now preside over the estate have continued to keep that promise and the house remains abandoned.

At the end of a long winding driveway through the woods at Chestnut Hill you are met by tall, black, iron gates laced with chains and barbed wire, sealed closed by a slew of heavy iron locks. From outside the fence line what little you can see of the manor itself, through overgrown weeds, twisted tree limbs, and vines, looks decrepit, the exterior dilapidated, windows boarded, and it appears that one tree has even grown through the walls and roof. There is a round window at the top of the house, which I imagine is the attic, that appears to have a red glow. It is eerily reminiscent of an eye with a piercing stare, as if the house is watching and waiting for one’s curiosity to take hold, compelling you to venture in…

Standing outside the gates was as far as I went, I trust my gut and everything about this place is unsettling, the negative energy in the surrounding hazy air palpable. The manor’s latest victim appears to be Fred Smith, a renowned paranormal investigator who was last heard from when he arrived at Chestnut Hill two weeks ago to spend a weekend exploring possible paranormal activity within the house. When Smith failed to check in with his family at the end of the weekend they reported him missing. Police found his car just outside the gates of the grounds but in their extensive search of the property no trace of Fred Smith or any of his belongings, which apparently including several heavy cases of ghost hunting equipment, was found.

As the saying goes, some things are best left alone. Chestnut Hill Manor holds 150 years worth of dark secrets and death, locals speak of it only in whispers if at all, and the folklore about this shadowy place grows ever darker and more disturbing with every new disappearance linked to the house. It is safe to say that nobody knows the entire truth about Chestnut Hill, nobody living that is, and most are perfectly happy to keep it that way. The house and grounds have been left to rot and decay which is probably for the best, but I doubt Fred Smith will be the last to vanish into its stormy abyss. The curious, the skeptics, the fanatics, and the naively innocent will continue to come to this strangely alluring place and the list of Chestnut Hill’s victims will only continue to grow.

I don’t hold much of a candle to ghost stories but you wont find me exploring this manor of death night or day. I strongly advise that you don’t find yourself venturing into the mouth of this beast, but for those who can’t resist its echoing calls on the wind, whatever you do, don’t go in alone.

 

 

 

Doomsday

The foreboding notion of Doomsday, of a world at its end, a dark prediction of impending calamity has long been conjured up by man throughout the ages.  This, sometimes overwhelming, fear of the final hour for life on Earth is not unwarranted, after all it has happened at least once before. If you believe that dinosaurs once roamed our fragile planet, and it’s kinda hard to ignore the ginormous evidence that they did, then you know that the end times are forever only as far away as the nearest rogue space rock. The continuation of life as we know it depends on the delicate balance of not only the cosmos, but also the preservation of our fragile Eco-system, the forces of nature, and the actions an inaction of every human on the planet. If any of these should tip the scale just a little too much it will spell the end of the line for most, if not all, species in this green and blue wonderland.

Predictions of the apocalypse taking place in some form has been big business for religious groups, people, and leaders as well as mystics, astrologists, mathematicians, and scientists since 66 CE, and as they say, business is good.  

Saint Beatus of Liebana prophesied the second coming of Christ on April 6 793 believing his return would cause the end of the world in front of a large crowd of people.

Many Europeans saw the black plague of 1346-1353 as a sign of the end of the world.

Astrologers in London predicted that the world would end on February 1 1524 due to a great flood that would start in London. In response, 20,000 Londoners fled the city for higher ground.

Christopher Columbus predicted that the end times would come about in both 1656 and 1658. He made these predictions between 1501 and 1502.

Mathematician John Napier believed the world would end in 1688 based on calculations made from the Book of Revelation. He later revised this date to 1700.

From 1853-1856 many believed the Crimean war was the Battle of Armageddon.

People’s Temple founder, Jim Jones said he had visions of a nuclear holocaust taking place in 1967.

Nostradamus (apothecary/seer), The Amazing Criswell (psychic), Phillip Berg (dean of the worldwide Kabbalah Centre), Charles Berlitz (linguist), Hon-Ming Chen (leader of the cult Chen Tao),  James Gordon Lindsay (preacher), Timothy Dwight IV (president of Yale University),  and Nazim Al-Haqqani (Muslim spiritual leader) all prophesied that the world would end in 1999.

There were many end times predictions made about the year 2000, including the second coming of Christ,  the Antichrist being revealed and coming to power, and the Y2K scare which caused many people to believe that computers would crash worldwide on January 1st leading to global economic and social chaos.

 

Since 1947, members of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have maintained the Doomsday Clock. This clock was designed to be a symbol representing the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe. A group of international researchers called the Chicago Atomic Scientists invented the Doomsday Clock following their participation in the Manhattan Project and the subsequent bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  The clock is “intended to reflect basic changes in the level of continuous danger in which mankind lives in the nuclear age..” with midnight representing hypothetical global disaster.

Originally, the Doomsday Clock was set to seven minutes until midnight and has since been set forward and backward 22 times in response to global events. The closest setting to midnight came in 1953 when the United States and the Soviet Union began testing hydrogen bombs resulting in the clock being set to 2 minutes until midnight. The Science and Security board meets twice a year to discuss global changes and review the clock’s setting.  Since 2007 the clocks setting has also taken into consideration the effects of climate change as well as the consequences of developments in science and technology which could result in irrevocable harm to humanity.

Currently the Doomsday Clock is set to 2 and a half minutes until midnight due to the rise of Nationalism, President Trump’s comments about North Korea, Russia, and nuclear weapons, and the Trump Administration’s expressed disbelief in the scientific consensus over climate change.  This marks the first time a fraction has been used in the setting of the clock and the closest time until midnight the clock has been set at since 1953.

 

 

Despite all the predictions, the hypothetical clocks, and the modern weapons known as “Doomsday Devices”, the concept of the ultimate demise of life is far from a new one. In fact, people have believed in, fantasized, prophesied, and written stories about an apocalypse since the dawn of man. Norse mythology describes Doomsday as ‘Ragnarok’ whereby a series of future events result in a great battle in which all of creation is burnt down and most life seizes to exist. The ancient Egyptians, despite being most concerned with immortality, believed the entire universe would come to an end in the future as it had been created from the waters of chaos and thus would eventually subside under these waters.  An ancient tablet believed to be from an early, powerful Mesopotamian culture, carved sometime between 2500 and 2800 BC bears the first known prophecy of the end of days.  The inscription on the tablet claims that the world is in its final days and is gradually deteriorating into a corrupt society which will end in destruction.

Whatever you believe about Doomsday, one thing is for sure, we should all be grateful for what we have and strive to leave the world in a better state than we found it. For now, we know of a fully equipped survival bunker you could hang out in… just make sure you lock the door behind you, unless you feel like testing your luck once the owners return…

 

 

 

 

The Roaring Twenties

“Live the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the Romance of the unusual.”

– Ernest Hemingway

 

The Jazz Age of the 1920’s was a decade of dramatic change, both socially and politically. The number of Americans living in cities drastically increased as people moved out of the countryside and away from farm life.  The huge economic boom of the twenties saw the nation’s total wealth more than double sweeping America rapidly into a consumer society. The advertising world exploded and chain stores opened in every state which led to people rushing to buy the latest products from coast to coast. Music found its way into every home with over 500 radio stations hitting the airwaves by 1923 and by 1929 there was a radio in over 12 million households.

However, the most important consumer product of the era was the automobile. At the beginning of the twenties low prices along with generous credit made purchasing a car an affordable luxury, in 1924 you could buy a Ford Model T for just $260. By the time 1929 rolled around the car had become a necessity and there was one vehicle on the road for every five Americans, giving life to the automobile economy and new businesses catering to drivers such as motels and service stations.

1920 brought with it a marked and symbolic change in the roles of women in America. On August 18th, the 19th Amendment was ratified, finally granting women the right to vote. Millions of women were employed in white collar jobs, and with the invention of time saving appliances like the washing machine and the vacuum cleaner and widespread access to the electricity which powered them, the “New Woman” was born.  The term “flapper” became a household word and referred to a generation of young women who wore short skirts, cut their traditionally long hair into a bob, listened to jazz, danced, smoked in public, and flaunted their disdain for conventional socially acceptable behavior. Flappers became a symbol of the era, a reflection of the newfound freedoms women could enjoy.

Despite all this, perhaps the most outstanding thing about the 1920’s is prohibition. In 1919 the 18th amendment to the constitution banned the manufacture and sale of all “intoxicating liquor”, and at midnight on January 16th 1920 the ban went into effect and every bar, tavern, and saloon in the United States was closed down. The long fought battle to ban alcohol led by temperance groups had been won…. or so they thought.

The arise of prohibition failed to stop the production, sale, and consumption of alcohol. Instead, the liquor trade simply went underground. In place of ordinary bars, racketeers, bootleggers, and organised crime figures opened up “Speakeasies” and controlled the manufacture and sale of the country’s alcohol. One such crime figure was notorious gangster, Al Capone who reportedly had over 1000 gunmen and half of Chicago’s police force on his payroll.

 

“Some call it bootlegging, some call it racketeering. I call it a business.” – Al Capone

 

So, if you feel like stepping back into the golden age of the roaring twenties, just give us a call, we know of a great Speakeasy you can hang out in and as it happens we’re in need of a few good detectives to solve a mysterious murder.  Now that sounds like berries to me!